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Tread Soundly

CALGARY, Alta. - As an owner/operator there are seemingly endless options when it comes to spec'ing your rig, but perhaps the most important consideration is the type of tire to run.Your tires are the...

CALGARY, Alta. – As an owner/operator there are seemingly endless options when it comes to spec’ing your rig, but perhaps the most important consideration is the type of tire to run.

Your tires are the only things separating your valuable truck from the asphalt, so it stands to reason that putting some extra thought into spec’ing the right tires for your particular application makes good business sense.

But with the onslaught of new and advanced tire technology being touted by each of the major manufacturers, where does an owner/operator begin?

Ralph Beaveridge, marketing manager for Michelin Truck Tires, says the first step is to establish a good relationship with a dealer you can trust.

“It’s critically important that an owner/operator be completely honest about what his application is when spec’ing tires so that he and the dealer can work together to find the best solution,” says Beaveridge.

That means ‘fessing up if you drive well over the speed limit, or admitting to bad driving habits such as constant curb-clipping, that could affect the proper tire choice.

“The owner/operator has to decide what their criteria is and then be completely honest about it with the dealer,” says Beaveridge.

Finding a dealer that will help you determine the right fit for your application can be as simple as visiting a reputable tire dealership and asking questions before you buy.

“I wouldn’t take a Porsche 911 to Joe’s Garage down the street and say ‘Put your four best black tires on it for me’ and expect to walk away satisfied,” says Beaveridge.

Michelin alone offers three different long-haul steer tires – the XZA-1+, XZA2 and the premium XZA3 – so honing in on the right selection involves a number of considerations, such as where you do the majority of your driving.

Greg Cressman, deputy director of technical services with Yokohama Tire, agrees spec’ing the right tire is very application-oriented.

It gets more complicated, however, for owner/operators hauling a variety of freight in different operating conditions.

“In B.C. and Alberta you could be hauling logs part of the year and hauling flatdeck or gravel afterwards,” says Cressman.

Even drivers who spend most of their time driving on-highway may have to make the occasional trek off the beaten path, and that’s important to consider as well.

“You have to keep in mind that the tires that are on the vehicle are maybe not optimized for all of the road surfaces you’re on and drive accordingly,” says Cressman.

Yokohama recently released a new premium steer tire – the RY637 – as well as a premium drive tire – the TY527 – providing O/Os with even more options.

The new tires were constructed with an emphasis on reducing irregular wear.

“There’s been an awful lot of work put into making tires that resist irregular wear as much as possible,” says Cressman.

With constantly fluctuating fuel costs, many large fleets are moving towards tires that are specifically designed to deliver the best fuel mileage.

But while all tires have made advances in increasing fuel efficiency, spec’ing a tire exclusively for this purpose may not make sense for all O/Os.

“In many cases when the emphasis is on fuel efficiency, there is less emphasis on traction,” says Beaveridge.

As with any truck component, tires come in a broad range of prices.

Perhaps it’s because the thought of changing a blow-out during February in Winnipeg doesn’t appeal to many O/Os, but whatever the reason, Canadian operators tend to stray away from the ultra-cheap brands.

“I take my hat off to the intelligence of Canadian fleet managers and Canadian owner/operators because most of them have made the decision to go with a premium product,” says Beaveridge.

“They recognize the cost per kilometre argument and they’ve seen the benefits of it. There’s a much higher penetration of the tier-one products in Canada than there is in the U.S.”

Another key consideration when spec’ing tires is whether you plan to retread them.

About 80 per cent of fleets run a retread program, which can more than double the life expectancy of the tire.

“If you’ve got an operator that runs a retread program, that will impact what sort of tires you’ll be selecting from the outset,” says Cressman.

“If you’re going to retread, then you want to ensure you get a good casing that will survive multiple retreads,” says Al Cohn, manager of strategic initiatives for commercial truck tires with Goodyear.

“You don’t want a throw-away casing.”

Goodyear’s premium tire lineup for linehaul applications consists of the G397LHS steer tire and the G372LHD drive tire.

Ideally, you should spec’ a tire with a durable casing that will withstand two retreads.

Once you’ve selected the ideal tire for your specific application, it’s not just a matter of strapping it on and whacking it with a hammer each day before hitting the road.

To get the most out of your tires it’s essential to properly maintain them.

“The most important thing, once you have the tire running on your vehicle, is air pressure,” says Cohn.

“Air pressure is the number one issue facing truckers today – low air pressure leads to nothing but problems.”

Fuel mileage, tire wear and retreadability and the overall safety of the driver can all be compromised by running underinflated tires.

“Most people don’t take the time to go around and check all their tires,” says Cohn, who recommends checking your tire pressures daily with a calibrated tire gauge.

“You go into a terminal and there’s 10 pressure gauges around and you’ll get 10 different answers so it’s important you use a calibrated air gauge,” says Cohn.

Getting into the habit of checking tire pressures regularly will save an O/O money in the end.

“Air is what’s carrying the tire’s load,” points out Cohn.

True enough, but the air would do little good without the aid of the rubber.

That’s why spec’ing the right tire is one of the most important decisions you can make as an owner/operator.

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